Somalia: Under siege Deni calls for dialogue to resolve Puntland's election dispute


GAROWE, Somalia - The Embattled Puntland leader Said Abdullahi Deni called for dialogue with the opposition, just hours after the group published an election timeline, despite resistance from the government and Puntland Electoral Commission [PEC], which is in charge of the exercise.

With pressure building from the opposition, civil society, and the international community, Deni has now succumbed to calls for dialogue, noting that the move could solve challenges surrounding democratization processes in the state.

"President Deni has called for dialogue to settle the differences on democratization processes," Interior Minister Juxa Farah said. "He also pardoned Gen. Jimcaale and his troops. The President was speaking today on a special event in Caanoyaskax farming community."

While calling for dialogue, however, Deni maintained that there would be "no negotiation" on the controversial electoral process. His term is due to end in January 2024, and the opposition has already dismissed the postponement of the polls by the electoral agency which insists it will be ready by February.

Deni, who is also accused of pushing for term extension through manipulation of electoral laws in the regional assembly, is pushing for universal suffrage polls, which have been rejected by the opposition. The opposition favours indirect polls citing manipulation of voter registration exercises by the regional government.

Mohamed Abdirahman Mohamad, one of the leading opposition figures, took a swipe at the president following his latest declaration on dialogue, arguing that the current administration is not acquainted with the constitution. This was in reference to the "pardoning" of General Jimcaale.

"Here, we see clearly that the President and his ministers may not be fully acquainted with our Constitution," said Mohamed Abdirahman, who is critical of the administration of Deni.

"This statement underlines a recurring issue: the disregard for the law, contrary to the unwavering principles of Article 27(1) of Puntland’s Constitution, which states that an individual is only deemed a criminal after a formal conviction by a court of law. This core principle ensures justice and fairness for all by upholding the presumption of innocence and the rule of law."

General Jimale, the commander of Puntland Danab Forces, while responding to Deni, accused the outgoing leader of igniting deadly wars in Bosaso and Garowe, noting that the president is required to ask for forgiveness from the soldiers he described as "Puntland enemy" and the people.

Electoral woes in Puntland have threatened the stability of Somalia's oldest state, which has been deemed as the most stable over the years. The opposition maintains that postponement of the elections is equivalent to extending Deni's term contrary to the dictates of the constitution.


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